Quality education, teachers’ training, and teachers’ living and working conditions were all debated at the 7th National Congress of the Educators and Scientists’ Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG), an affiliate of Education International (EI).
ESFTUG President Maia Kobakhidze welcomed the 148 delegates representing the union’s 35,000 members as well as special guests to the congress held in the capital city Tbilisi on 25 October. Martin Rømer, Director of the EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), as well as ETUCE affiliates from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands, and Poland were in attendance, showing their strong and continued support to ESFTUG and Georgian teachers.
Representatives of the parliamentary Committee for Education, Science and Sport, local partners and international organisations, including the US Solidarity Center and the European Union’s Delegation in Georgia, were also present.
Kobakhidze especially welcomed the presence of the Georgian Minister of Education and Science, Tamar Sanikidze, as well as other government officials, noting that her presence was proof of the Government’s support and readiness for cooperation.
In her speech, Sanikidze confirmed that the Government is ready to partner with the teachers’ trade union and is always willing to hear its ideas and recommendations. She said the Ministry is aware of the teachers’ unsatisfactory conditions and salaries and is doing its best to improve their situation.
ESFTUG: Four-year strategy
Kobakhidze, reelected by delegates for a second term as ESFTUG President,outlined that the trade union’s strategy programme and priorities for 2014-2018 are to:
- Develop the organisation, as only a stable organisation can protect its members’ labour rights and provide them with ongoing professional development training
- Provide members with professional development programmes to boost their knowledge of new reforms and standards in the educational field
- Institutionalise the collective bargaining and social dialogue processes
- Deepen international relations
The congress also approved a proposal to establish a “Professional Development Centre for the Employees of Educational Institutions of Georgia”. Under the framework of the national education reform, the Ministry of Education and Science devised a new strategy for teachers, changing the standards for entering the profession, professional development and the career development scheme. However, ESFTUG believes teachers’ social conditions must be improved because of their connection to teachers’ professional development.
One of the important tasks of the Congress was also to approve amendments to the organisation’s constitution. Besides some minor changes, ESFTUG lawyers presented changes aiming to help ESFTUG function in critical situations.
“Now is the time to move forward, to further develop and strengthen ESFTUG to protect Georgian educators’ interests and rights,” Kobakhidze highlighted.
EI/ETUCE: Importance of independent and strong trade unions
“I congratulate you for the great progress you accomplished despite all odds against you,” Rømer said in his address to the Congress. “You did an impressive work.”
EI/ETUCE is examining and monitoring the situation to ensure that the Government will never try to influence the trade union, he also underlined.
“We will always be there to protect teachers’ rights violated in some EU countries and education unions in difficult circumstances,” Romer said. “We hope that the situation here in Georgia will continue to improve and teachers’ labour, social, economic, and legal rights be respected.”
EI/ETUCE believe that a strong European and international trade union movement is important for both workers' rights and quality education, he added.